Then, There Were Four
The journey to the Kenya cup title that started with 14, then went down to 6, is now down to four sides. Quins, Impala, Kabras and KCB. This weekend the penultimate round of the journey plays out along Ngong road.
After sitting out last weekend, the Ngong road duo of Quins and Impala will be taking on last season’s finalists, Kabras and KCB, respectively. The journey so far has been of resurgence for the two Ngong road sides, will they complete their comebacks and make it an all Ngong-road affair in the final, or will we have a repeat of last season’s final?
Quins vs Kabras – 4PM, RFUEA Grounds
The first semi final, (if you approach Ngong road from the CBD) pits two sides that have had a very contrasting season. While Quins have been oscillating between the top two slots for large parts of the season. There was a time no body saw Kabras making it this far.
Earlier I mentioned how this has been a season of resurgence for the Ngong road sides, it has been more for the Quin than their next door neighbours. From a season where they had become the laughing stock of rugby circles, soaking in cricket scores to finish a distant 10th, to this.
Many would term this an achievement by itself, but not a Quin, they will be looking to go all the way, if only so that they can properly laugh at everyone’s faces.
Their opponents at the weekend almost had a similar season to theirs this time out, Kabras had sunk to 10th before the league went into the Christmas break. They had pilled up 3 losses and a draw from 5 outings, at this point we had all but written them off from the play off race.
But 12 wins from 14 in the new year saw them finish in 3rd, to book a date against Nakuru in the play off, winning that one 16-15 at the Kakamega Show grounds to book this date. Though only in their second season in the top flight, Kabras are not new to this stage, having beaten defending champions Nakuru at the same stage last season.
This will be the thrid meeting between these two, this season, third in the league and 4th overall. This season they stand at one a piece, Quins beating Kabras 19-17 on match day 2 at the RFUEA, Kabras returning the favour with a 41-17 win at the Kakamega Show grounds on match day 6.
Last season, Kabras beat Quins 27-10 in the league at the RFUEA, the two then met in the Enterprise cup where Quins emerged 39-30 winners at the same venue. In the league thus, Kabras hold a 2:1 advantage, overall they are tied at 2:2.
It couldn’t be any closer, at the weekend expect a very closely fought out affair, as former Quins boys Edwin Achayo and Nick Barasa look to get one over their former side. It will however be a match where all eyes will be on one Ugandan boy Ronald Musajja who started the season with Kabras but will start at number 8 for Quins.
That week’s rest has done Quins a load of good as they now will be able to field the likes of Patrice Agunda and Tony Mutai who had minor knocks in the closing weeks of the season. Their most lethal weapon though will be at the half backs where Lyle Asiligwa partners Eden Agero.
Quins’ season has so far been characterised by their ability to dictate a game’s tempo, at will. This has largely been anchored by their half back pairing and forwards, the likes of Tony Mutai, we get to them in a few. Lyle and Eden will be tasked with picking up or dropping the tempo when with ball in hand.
They will be up against Edwin Achayo and Jone Navuso on the opposite side, the two who started against Nakuru. In Navuso, Kabras have a very nifty runner, kind of like Eden, but with a more natural flare, if utilised well he could be the constant thorn in Quins’ defence.
The Kangethe twins start for Quins in the forwards, though in different positions, Joseph starting at loose head prop and James at second row. The two have been deployed in those respective roles with great returns over the last couple of weeks. Alongside Anthony Mutai and Kevin Umbuge, they will be the ones to lead the Quins charge, dictating the pace.
Quins have managed to shut out the likes of KCB, Impala, twice and Nakuru because of their ability to set a pace that favours them every time. When they loose that ability, they are usually in for a hiding, as was seen in Nakuru and Kakamega against this Kabras side. If they are to win here, their forwards can’t afford an off day.
They will be up against the likes of Hillary Mwanjilwa, Duncan Mwangi, Max Adaka and Anthony Ogot who will be out to go toe to toe with them. The battle at the scrums will be one to watch with Duncan Mwangi and Hillary Mwajilwa taking on Joseph Kangethe and Ayub Kimutai. The Kabras forwards will come into this one with their tails up, having got one over one of the most revered set of 8 in the country, Nakuru.
The battle at the line out will also be as interesting as the Anthonys go head to head, toe to toe in the air. Former Kenya internationals Anthony Mutai and Anthony Ogot are bound to lead the line outs at the weekend, these two having played against each other for many years makes this one that much more interesting.
I started at the forwards, for my pick for battle of the day highly depends on whose forwards win their battle. In mid field Patrice Agunda and David Ambunya will line up against Nick Barasa and Fabian Olando, in what will be a battle of the best midfield pairings in the country. (I see you Impala guys, settle down hehe)
If Kabras get their forwards battle right, then Nick and Fabian will have a field day running at their opposite numbers, if Quins do their part then the opposite will be true. If however the battle of the forwards has little or nothing to pick between them, these gents will hold the key to their side’s fortunes.
An equally interesting match up will be at number 15, where Kevin Keegan will take on Jone Kubu. A battle of the side steppers, who will win the ‘Vinyozi’ battle?
Impala vs KCB – 4PM, Impala Club
The second semi final (again approaching Ngong road from the CBD) will be an equally if not more, mouth watering encounter between two sides who don’t know what playing out a dull encounter looks or feels like.
While the first semi final will largely be a highly tactical affair, expect this one to hand you decent servings of everything, tactical warfare, free flowing action and everything in between.
Their season’s sort of read from the same script as in the first semi, while Impala dominated the league phase, hogging the top spot for long periods, KCB have had a lukewarm season so far. Impala finished first on 80 points, winning 16 of their 19 matches, with the Lions coming in fifth, 13 points behind the leaders, off 12 wins, 6 losses and a draw.
While Impala looked prime for the play off spots, there was always a cloud of doubt over KCB, losses to Strathmore, Mwamba, Homeboyz and that draw against Western Bulls all feeding that cloud. They however managed to scrap through and set up a play off date with Homeboyz, beating the Djs 25-8 in what was one of their best displays this season.
At the weekend however, the Lions will have to do better when they take on the pre-match and indeed league favourites, Impala. The Gazelles have been wallowing in the league wilderness for quite a while, since their last triumph in 2009. Never have they looked any closer to ending that drought.
They have dropped our jaws in amazement on several occasions this season, at the weekend they will be out to do this one more time and book a spot in the Kenya cup final. Their opponents, an out of sorts KCB side that will be out to make their 3rd back to back Kenya cup final.
These two have played out 9 encounters in the last 4 seasons, 4 in the league, 2 in the Enterprise cup and 3 in Impala’s Floodies. The league meetings read like this, KCB 22-10 (2012/13), Impala 18-0 (2013/14), KCB 22-3 (2014/15) and their most recent encounter Impala 19-15 on match day 15.
Thus the record stands at 2:2, in the league, overall KCB hold a 7:2 advantage having won all other fixtures between these two outside the league.
From those stats you may say that Impala turn up, when it really does matter, nothing compares to a league win. The only way this could be bigger or matter more, is if it were the Kenya cup final.
Impala have not tinkered much with the side that beat Strathmore on match day 19, with the only changes being George Okowa, Samson Onsomu, Ian Minjire and Simon Muniafu. The quartet coming in for Kevin Ochami, Mohamed Omollo, Lamech Dunde and Eric Kerre respectively.
KCB only making 3 changes to the side that beat Homeboyz last weekend, Ken Moseti coming on for Brian Omondi the only change in the starting fifteen. Elly Mukaisi and Marlin Mukolwe getting slots on the bench for Nelson Nyandat and Felix Wanjala respectively.
Most will mention that KCB were lucky the last time these two met, as that man Nato Simiyu was stretchered off inside the first 5 minutes of play. This weekend, they will be facing that man again who alongside Samson Onsomu will be pivotal for the Sarries. That half back pairing has delivered some great displays, the one that comes to mind is against Kabras at the Impala grounds.
On the opposite side will be a rather new pairing, that of Michael Wanjala and Ken Andola, the two only joining the club this season. On their shoulders will be the uphill task of not only nullifying Impala’s dynamic duo, but also creating for the men in the similar coloured shirts as them.
The only way Wanjala and Andola’s work will be made a bit easier is if their forwards manage to disrupt Impala ball. In this front the likes of Rocky Aguko, Ian Indimuli and Peter Waitere will be vital. Their battle on the ground mainly against the young duo of Tyson Okoth and Paul Mutsami alongside the veteran Duncan Ekasi.
Scrum time will see Moses Amusala and Dennis Karani square it out on one side, with Curtis Lilako taking on Stephen Juma, the Kenya selectors will have a close eye on this battles, so should you. Impala’s decision to start Simon Muniafu was probably down to the line out where he is expected to keep Oliver Mang’eni in check.
Muniafu was a constant threat when they two met at the Floodies final, especially in the restarts. He will be looking to hit the same form at the weekend. Alongside Davis Makori they will also be crucial at scrum time.
At the middle of the park, veteran Innocent Simiyu will be facing off against Ken Moseti at inside center, with Israel Soi taking on James Kilonzo in a potentially exciting encounter at outside center. The towering Minjire will be taking on the dimunitive Edwin Salamba in what many expect to be a one way affair, as Vincent Mose takes on Peter Kilonzo on the opposite wing.
The battle of the full backs will also probably be the battle of the boot with George Okowa taking on Darwin Mukidza. This one feels like it might be ultimately decided from the boot of these two.
We are definitely in for a blockbuster weekend in the semi finals, I have a funny feeling that we might go to sudden death in one of these two.